Branding Tips for Individuals and Businesses

What is Branding?  Branding is a person’s gut feeling about a person, place, or product.  Brands can be positive or negative and people opinions of a brand can change over time.  Branding yourself or your business can involve many things, such as; slogans and trademarks, online presence, and social media usage.  How you or your business interacts with the public is also a major part of branding.  Your customer service can create a positive or negative brand so it is always important to strive for excellent customer service.

It is important in branding to describe what you do in as few words as possible.  This is not a slogan or catchphrase.  Try to develop a short phrase around two to five words that sums up yourself or your business.  For example; when people ask me about what VaudVil is, I tell them it is “Tucson’s Source for Variety Entertainment!”  The worst that could happen when I tell people this is they may ask “What is variety entertainment?”  Another example; you have an Italian restaurant, someone asks what you do and you say “Authentic Italian Cuisine.”  Too easy!  You can develop a catchphrase or a slogan to build upon your brand, think of Nike’s “Just Do It,” but you first have to figure out what it is that you or your business does.

You will have to build an online presence for yourself or your business.  If you do not have a website, you need to get one.  You can hire someone to make one for you but there are plenty of tools out there to help the common person create a great looking website for little to no cost.  And no, you cannot use your Facebook page as your website.  You need to create a website separate from social media.  There are many options like Wix or Squarespace to help build a website.  I personally prefer WordPress because I like the many options they have and it is very user friendly.  Most of the time it is also one of the cheaper options although there are still costs involved.  It is important to have lots of pages because search engines like websites with lots of content and will put them at the top of searches.  This is why it is important to have a blog built into your website because each blog post counts as an individual page.  This is another reason why I recommend WordPress.  If you’re not sure what to blog about, make sure you have the ability to blog in the future, but do not stress over that in the beginning.  Right now just focus on creating the website if you don’t have one.

Social media is big deal when it comes to marketing and branding yourself or your business.  Unfortunately, there are many platforms each with their own specialties and unique uses.  It can be difficult to try to figure them all out at the same time.  Your best bet is to focus on one social media platform at a time until you’ve mastered them all.  My advice is to start with the platform you are most familiar with and move up from there.  Most people are familiar with all of the platforms but for those of you who are not, here are few fun facts about each platform.

Facebook: I always recommend Facebook as a starting point because Facebook Pages are made for businesses and individuals trying to promote themselves.  It’s a great place to share photos, comments, videos, interact with customers and potential customers, and its very user friendly.  You can also build an online store through Facebook Pages, create effective advertisements, and even post job openings for your business.

Instagram: This is the next platform I recommend for people who are not familiar with social media.  Instagram is easy and simple to use.  You post pictures and that’s it.  You can post videos too but it’s really great for those behind the scenes photos and candid, personal photos that people don’t really get to experience when they see you in person or visit your business.  You don’t want to post any advertisement photos on Instagram because people follow you for photos of you or your business.  Business only tip: post pics of what you sell but also post pics of people with your products or in your establishment.  There’s no need for words on your Instagram posts.

Twitter: There is a specific audience, I believe, for Twitter.  It’s a great place to post quotes and comments and it is very good for connecting with other businesses or professionals like you.  Hashtags are very important in the Twitter world.  While you can use them on Facebook and Instagram, a well posted hashtag can bring more people to your tweet than on other platforms.  Quotes from famous authors that share your ideals, comments on current events whether its politics, sports, entertainment, etc…these are why people follow Twitter feeds.  You can post photos and videos just like Facebook and Instagram but the real focus should be on the words.

Snapchat: I have very little experience with Snapchat.  It’s mostly pictures and videos with filters that alter your appearance or things around you.  I believe this is better for individuals than businesses but I have seen businesses using Snapchat.  It will be interesting to see how Snapchat evolves to stay competitive with all the other platforms.  Eventually, I will work harder to understand Snapchat and provide a better guide for its uses but for now, I’m still trying to master Twitter.

LinkedIn: This platform is important for networking and building connections.  This is also a great place for sharing your blog posts and showing off your expertise in whatever industry you work.  You can build your personal brand as well as your business brand and post job openings like Facebook but with more success and each person’s profile is their resume.  Having professional networks can help you business, or yourself, stay alive and competitive as you have people to chat with and share knowledge.

The next step to building your personal and professional brand is by going out and being involved in the community.  Look for speaking engagements to share your knowledge and experience.  Try judging competitions in your industry or hosting workshops.  Teach a class or offer professional consulting.  If you don’t like meeting new people, you will have to get over this and force yourself to go to meet and greets and mixers.  Hand out business cards like they’re candy and make sure you talk to at least three people per event.  If you’re more outgoing, set a goal of ten people per event.  Look for people who can help you grow your business or people who need help growing theirs.

One important thing to remember is to be patient.  Nothing changes overnight.  If you start today building your brand, it can still take a couple years before you’re in the kind of place you want to be so do not get upset if you’ve been meeting people for two months and you still feel unknown.  It takes years to build trust with a community.

James Pack lives in Tucson, AZ.  He has a Masters Degree in Entertainment Business from Full Sail University.  His goal is to establish and grow the entertainment community in Tucson and, eventually, the state of Arizona.  He is the maniacal madman behind VaudVil and writes fiction in his free time.

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